Monday, April 28, 2014

Thoughts on How to Depict Women in My Art

Most of my art depicts women, and I am very conscious of how I portray them. Lately my art is in more detail, so it has been more prevalent in my thoughts. In the age of photoshop, when women are airbrushed, slimmed, sculpted and overall idealized, I know that I too, am creating images of women that can hold influence on how we view ourselves and others.

According to the Economist, beauty spending–on make-up, health clubs, diet pills, fragrances, skin care, hair products, and cosmetic surgery–adds up to $160 billion-a-year worldwide. I can't seem to go a single commercial break without multiple ads telling me how much I should weigh, how much bounce and shine my hair should have, how terrible wrinkles (and aging in general) are, how unsightly any hair on my body is, how boring my clothes are, and nameless other nit-pickings of my appearance. It seems every year the industry comes up with more things we didn't even KNOW was wrong with our bodies!

I'm fed up, and I have been for a long time. It saddens me how little most women think of themselves, just because greedy money-makers are trying to sell more crap. All this focus on external fake beauty takes away focus from building on our inner beauty, which keeps us down in life in general.

I could go on and on about this subject, but I'll bring it back to my art, since that's probably why you're here. I tread a wobbly line with depicting women in my art. I want to create art that is beautiful. I also care about how other women, especially little girls, could react to seeing images of the women in my art. As an artist, I know how much impact an image can hold. Even just one. Magazine covers hold great impact on a young girl. So my models don't wear makeup. Their hair is either natural, or interacting with nature. I don't leave out wrinkles or moles. I don't slim down waists or perk up breasts. I don't add body to hair, or remove hair from the body. I depict the natural beauty of an actual woman. I want to show how amazing we are as ourselves. To me, as an image, it is not only more honest and natural, but more interesting, beautiful, and powerful.

I don't want to be part of the problem. I want to be part of the solution. Be the change you want to see in the world. I don't depict idealized women in my art. I don't wear makeup but less than 5 times a year (which is very minimal when I do, and as I write this I'm starting to think perhaps never again.) I don't put product in my hair. I don't wear a bra that makes my breasts look larger or perkier. I've even stopped shaving my arm pits. (And yes, it's part of why I shaved my head before.) I am so over anybody telling me how I should look, and that my natural body is something to be ashamed of. Because I have rejected so many of these cultural norms for beauty, I am more confident in my own body now than I have ever been before.

I'm not perfect, I have been brain-washed just like every other girl in our culture, but I fight against it and slowly become more confident in myself as an individual, not as some version in comparison to some ideal, not as a ridiculous number on a scale.

I am very conscious of the decisions I make in my life and how they will affect others. I want my step-daughter to see that I can be extremely happy and confident as myself, in hopes that she, too, can be happy and confident in her own skin. In this culture, as a woman, that is so rare. Let's make it the norm.

Well, without further ado, here is my latest piece, "Native III."

"Native III" chalk, charcoal, colored pencil, 18"x24", by Heather Clements, 2014.

"Native III" (detail) chalk, charcoal, colored pencil, 18"x24", by Heather Clements, 2014.

"Native III" (detail) chalk, charcoal, colored pencil, 18"x24", by Heather Clements, 2014.

"Native III" (detail) chalk, charcoal, colored pencil, 18"x24", by Heather Clements, 2014.
*Update: This piece is now SOLD.*  Thanks so much!

Here is something I haven't done before: it's an image of my drawing blended into my reference photo.

"Native III" (detail) blended with reference photo.  Photo by Heather Clements.

Green Tip #24:  Go natural.  Makeups, hair-dyes, hair products, perfumes, skin products - so many of these are harmful for the environment, not to mention our bodies.  Learn to be comfortable with your natural self and go without, or at least cut back, on the 'beauty' products.  I can tell you from personal experience it feels great in so many ways!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog.  I would love to hear thoughts and comments from all you readers out there!


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